Don’t re-name ELAPP after anybody
Next Wednesday, the Hillsborough County Commission (BOCC) is scheduled to change the name of the Hillsborough County Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP) to name it after former county commissioner Jan Platt.
If it weren’t such a terrible idea to re-name ELAPP for any one person, I would say they certainly chose a fine person. Jan Platt is greatly admired for her record of leadership on behalf of ELAPP, and the BOCC’s unanimous approval of commissioner Kevin Beckner’s motion to honor her is coming from a good place. Unfortunately there are many reasons why this is a bad idea:
ELAPP’s strength has always been that it is beyond politics, supported by citizens with citizens’ committees overseeing the nominations, their ranking, the land purchases and preserve management plans. It is unique — and uniquely trusted by citizens as they continue to vote to tax themselves to support the program — precisely because it has always been free of politics.
ELAPP enjoys broad-based non-partisan support which could be damaged by naming it after any single politician from any one political party.
While Jan Platt is popular among environmentalists, no politician is liked by everyone, especially strong leaders like Platt. Tacking anyone’s name onto ELAPP cannot improve a brand that was recently approved by 79% of the voters — it can only damage it. There is no reason to think the same numbers of people who have supported ELAPP will support “The Jan K. Platt ELAPP,” in fact, there is reason to be concerned that the support level could drop, as some who did not vote for Platt in the past might not vote in the future to support anything named after her. (For example, per a recent CNBC poll: 46% oppose “Obamacare” while 37% oppose “The Affordable Care Act.”)
Naming one park — or one library, or one school — after a person is one thing; naming a county-wide system after someone is another thing entirely, and could set a terrible precedent.
Although we named a library after Jan Platt, we aren’t re-naming the whole Hillsborough County Public Library System to the “Jan K. Platt Public Library System” for the same reason we shouldn’t name the whole ELAP program after one person (and for the same reason we aren’t re-naming the Hillsborough County Indigent Care Program to the “Phyllis Busansky Indigent Health Care Program”). These county institutions belong to all of us. Turning them into memorials to any single person diminishes them.
Finally, if ELAPP is to be re-named, there should be much more of a public process than one spontaneous unscheduled county commissioner’s motion, with no public notice or discussion, finalized with a simple BOCC resolution a few weeks later. ELAPP has been established and extended for decades by county-wide voter referendums under its current name. There should be much more public discussion and opportunity for input on any name change of this publicly authorized and publicly funded program.
Wed., Oct. 16, 10:30 a.m., Time Certain, BOCC Agenda Item B-6:
Approve a Resolution changing the name of the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP) to the Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program in recognition and honor of the significant contributions of Jan K. Platt in creating the Program. All costs associated with this approval can be funded through the Countywide General Fund of the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department’s FY 14 budget. No additional County operating funds are required.
Email your thoughts to the County Commissioners:
Ken Hagan <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Mark Sharpe <email@example.com>, Sandy Murman <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Kevin Beckner <email@example.com>, Al Higginbotham <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Les Miller <email@example.com>, Victor Crist <firstname.lastname@example.org>